Born In My Heart: A Guest Blog Post from Lynn Sollitto

Hi folks! It’s an exciting summer day over here at my first ever guest blogger. I met Lynn Sollitto at the San Francisco Writers Conference in February, where we bonded over memoir-writing (and Tweeting). Lynn’s been working on a book about adopting a baby girl from foster care after serving as her drug-addicted biological mother’s birth coach—and then adopting the baby’s older sister a couple of years later. Lynn’s memoir, Born in My Heart, is about her girls’ adoption, their unique needs, her unusual relationship with their birth mother Ruth, and “the good, the bad and the ugly of it all.”

Below is a chapter from Lynn Sollitto’s work-in-progress, Born in My Heart. I hope you enjoy!


Chapter Three: Accidentally in Love

Paige in the NICU a couple of hours after her birth

Paige in the NICU a couple of hours after her birth

The first rays of sunshine crept under the closed curtains. I dug through my purse for loose change. Angrily, my stomach growled. “Food’s on the way,” I reassured it. “Stale, overpriced vending machine food…” My wallet was empty. Although there was an ATM on the first floor, I didn’t want Ruth to be alone when she woke up so I stayed in the room. I filled a paper cup multiple times with water and drank quickly. My stomach was somewhat placated.

Over the next couple of hours, Ruth’s contractions became closer together and more intense. I felt helpless that I didn’t know how to help her. I have been birth coached, but not the birth coach. Ruth wasn’t aware of anything other than her pain. The nurse said it was time to push. A two-person cheering squad, we encouraged Ruth. “One more push,” the nurse encouraged her. “C’mon Ruth, you can do it!” I exclaimed, holding her clammy hand. “I know it hurts but it’ll be over soon!” The situation was both hilarious and sad. I was witnessing an intense and personal experience with a woman I didn’t know.

I got a cool, wet washcloth and placed it gently on her forehead. I dabbed her sweaty forehead and pushed her hair away from her eyes. I winced when my finger caught in a tangle from her night of restless sleep. “You’re strong. You can do this!” Of course, I knew no such thing. In agony she suddenly cried out, “I want my husband, I want David!” At that moment, the full intensity and reality of her situation hit me: This woman was all alone. She was in physical and emotional pain and I could do nothing to help. Her future and the future of her children were uncertain. I felt gut-wrenching sadness for her situation: a complete stranger stood in her husband’s place.

My hands shook and my voice trembled. “I know you do, Honey, I know…” I turned away and re-wet the washcloth, a guise to hide the tears welling up in my eyes. Ruth pushed for nearly four hours. Then she gave up. Although the nurse and I urged Ruth on, she stopped all effort. She looked defeated, her energy obviously spent.

The nurse gestured for me to follow her into the hallway. “She isn’t pushing anymore. We’ll have to do a C-section if she doesn’t keep trying.” The nurse paused and her eyes probed mine. “Is there anything else about Ruth’s pregnancy that I should know…?” Her voice trailed off and implied there was. “I don’t really know her.” The nurse’s face didn’t change as I briefly explained the situation. She nodded at me then turned resolutely back to the birthing room. Once again at Ruth’s side, she firmly said, “Ruth, we need to know if you’ve done anything during your pregnancy. You need to be honest so we can help you and your baby! There might be something wrong…” Ruth took a deep breath. Quietly she told the nurse: “I did meth once. When my husband went to prison and I was really upset.” Suddenly Ruth cried out, “Is someone going to take my baby? I don’t want anyone to take my baby! Please don’t take my baby!” The nurse reassured Ruth no one would take her baby, then left the room.

I stared at Ruth’s pale, gaunt face. She no longer tried to hide her rotten teeth. She had small scabs and sores, a sign of chronic methamphetamine use. I thought, Once? You’re full of shit! When the nurse came back, she pulled me into the hallway again. “They’re prepping the operating room for a C-section,” she told me. “Will you be accompanying Ruth?”

Lynn's husband and son saying hello to the baby

Lynn’s husband and son saying hello to the baby

Are you kidding? I thought, excited. Out loud, calm and reserved, I said, “Yes.” My interest in medicine, rather than my birth coach duties, prompted the decision to go with Ruth. “I sure hope she turns her life around so she can keep her baby,” the nurse said, then she walked into the room to prep Ruth for transfer. I walked next to Ruth’s hospital bed as we entered the elevator and rode down to the operating room. It was as absurd as a scene from ER or General Hospital. Ruth was wheeled into the OR and I stayed behind in the hallway. The nurse told me to put on a gown and wait until I was called in.

My stomach grumbled; I was surprised to see it was 1 o’clock in the afternoon. Twenty minutes later I was called into the OR. Machines bleeped at consistent intervals. Nurses and doctors milled around in scrubs and surgical masks. A tall surgical curtain just below Ruth’s chest separated the doctors and nurses from her upper body. To the left stood a few nurses next to an incubator, ready to take Ruth’s baby. To my immediate right lay Ruth. An anesthesia nurse stood by her head. He was dressed in surgical scrubs but didn’t wear a mask. Things were surreal; I was an actress in a movie so preposterous it should have been fiction.

I tentatively approached Ruth, touched her arm and spoke. “Hi Ruth, I’m here. How are you?” She turned her head towards me, eyes unfocused. “It hurts,” she moaned, breathless. She turned her head to the anesthesia nurse and asked for more painkillers. I fidgeted, awkward and clueless. Should I massage her arm or gently stroke her hair? Should I distract her with jokes or reassure her as the doctor did me when I was in labor? Should I keep my hands to myself and merely stand next to her silently? “Let me know if you need anything, Ruth,” I finally said. She didn’t respond. The doctors and nurses swiftly performed their job. They explained the procedure as they went. “We’re going to make the incision. Can you feel anything Ruth?” Ruth muttered that she couldn’t feel any pain. I heard things on the other side of the sheet. I stood on my tiptoes and watched as best I could. Their arms moved around and performed what was routine to them but no less than amazing to me.

“Ruth, we’re going to deliver your baby now,” said the surgeon. I peered earnestly over the surgical drape, obsessed with seeing as much as possible. I forgot my role to assist and support Ruth. Instead, I witnessed the baby’s birth. She was a healthy-appearing, flushed infant covered in afterbirth, with a patch of hair plastered to her head. The doctor announced quite unnecessarily, “It’s a girl,” and handed the infant to a nurse. I suddenly remembered Ruth, the whole reason I witnessed this miracle. I turned back to Ruth. Was she aware of giving birth in her narcotic-induced haze? She seemed focused on her discomfort and the next painkiller push. I smiled at her pallid face and squeezed her hand. “You have another daughter, Ruth!”

Through a fog not induced by drugs, I heard someone ask if I wanted to cut the umbilical cord. I froze, dumbfounded. That’s not my job, that’s the father’s job!

Awestruck and surprisingly steady, I asked, “Do you want me to cut the cord?

Her eyes met mine. She nodded and whispered, “Yes.”

An understanding passed between us, and an unbreakable connection was made.

I approached the nurse, who waited patiently. I’d never cut an umbilical cord before. I’d never seen one still connected to the infant. I expected it to be brown and firm, a dried up stump like Eli had. To my surprise, it had a greenish hue, and was thick and twisted. As I cut through with the sterile scissors, I discovered it was soft and rubbery. I cut the cord and thoughts of disbelief raced through my head. I cannot believe I’m doing this… Afterwards, the doctors stitched up Ruth. “It hurts,” she moaned. She got another dose of painkillers.

“Do you want to hold the baby?” A nurse stood to my left, holding the pink bundle of joy. My eyes widened and my hands shook. David should be the first to hold her, not me. “Ruth?” I whispered. She conceded with a nod. I took the wrapped bundle in my arms, amazed that I had witnessed her birth. I turned to Ruth and proudly showed her her daughter, as though I was the father. “Look Ruth, it’s your daughter. She’s beautiful!” I gently lowered the baby so Ruth could see her. Ruth looked at her briefly and then closed her eyes. When she didn’t open them again after a few seconds, I straightened up. The PA system played a faint lullaby of bells, symbolizing the newborn’s arrival. I gazed down at this perfect little package, enamored. She sucked on the edge of her tightly wrapped blanket. It reminded me of our kitten, Boogie, who did the same thing.

Then, without warning, I thought, You’d fit in good with us.

I jerked my head up, paranoid someone had heard what I was thinking. Where the hell did that come from?


You can follow Lynn on Twitter @LynnSollitto and check out her Facebook page here.

What’s Up…Friday?

I’ve been wanting to do a What’s Up Wednesday post for a while. For the uninitiated, What’s Up Wednesday was an idea for a weekly blog post started by YA author Jaime Morrow, who blogs here. I love the simple check in on a busy week. Every Wednesday, you write about….


Alas, I guess I’ve been up to other stuff on Wednesdays, because I keep missing it. So, what the hell–it’s a What’s Up Friday kind of day.


I just picked up Carl Hiaasen’s Skinny Dip, after having inched my way through his novel Nature Girl. I hadn’t heard of Carl Hiaasen until a month or two ago, when my father-in-law gave a soliloquy about how funny he is.

photo-4Turns out ye olde FIL was right; Hiaasen’s pretty funny. He satirizes all facets of American society with a not-so-subtle environmental bent that really appeals to me. I’m not sure I’m up for a Carl Hiaasen bender, but I do enjoy reading him–and other “commercial” fiction, which I find to be very ambitious. In fact, Hiaasen has inspired me to write a blog post called “In Praise of Commercial Fiction”–stay tuned.

This morning, I went to my local independent bookstore and purchased the new Jhumpa Lahiri novel, The Lowland. This book is up for the National Book Award and I believe the Booker Prize, too, and I’m reading it for a new book club, three.


Sadly, not much. I’m still very much in professional development mode, e.g., querying my book to agents. I don’t like this as well as writing, but it has its moments. A week or so ago, after a nice exchange with novelist Tara Conklin (who’s also part of Popcorn), I started being a little more, well, bold. Yesterday I found myself writing a query letter that began “I’m sure twenty writers have claimed they have the next X, but in my case, it’s true…” Because, of course, why not? I got this fortune-cookie fortune last week and tucked it into my wallet:

photo-4You never know.

Oh, and–I should also mention my postcard poem project! My friend Mike Dockins and I are sending poems to each other on postcards. He writes one, I respond; vice versa. His handwriting, it turns out, is more legible than mine.


Fall; postcard poems; the women in my new creative women’s group; Buddhism/meditation; my garden; my son; Project Runway.


Strictly the usz: grading papers, parenting, tending house, playing a little music, enjoying family and friends. Oh and trying to make my son a dragon costume for Halloween, while simultaneously trying to get him to stop being afraid that dragons are in his room at night trying to kill him. Maybe the kid understands something about psychology that I don’t: face your fears by dressing up as them for Halloween?

Should I dress up as an unpublished memoir?

Have a great weekend, folks.

The Wednesday Chef

My friend Carla sent me this blog post yesterday, by The Wednesday Chef, a blogger I mentioned briefly in my popcorn post “Still Hungry” last month. Her blog is beautiful; her writing has urgency and accessibility, her blog’s look is professional and warm, and she shares great recipes, to boot. I think I sense a new favorite food blog coming on.

Yesterday’s post “Q&A: Writing My Berlin Kitchen” had this piece of wisdom, which I just had to share on a foggy NorCal morning:

I don’t think I exaggerate things when I say that finding discipline to write may be the very hardest part of any writer’s job. Read any book on writing or any memoir of a writer’s life and you are guaranteed to find many, many sentences devoted to the fact that the writer is convinced, at any given point, that they are a fraud and a waste of space and spirit and utterly incapable of writing, so there’s no point in even sitting down and trying because it’s never going to happen anyway and you might as well give up and become a garbage man or a middle manager or go hike the Camino de Santiago or something. At least then you’d be useful. That having been said, a set routine really helps: forcing yourself to sit down at your desk at the same time every day (and then ending at the same time every day) is a must.


Liebster Award

I’m back after a (somewhat unplanned) week-long hiatus with the news that prolific and engaged blogger The Living Notebook nominated me for the Liebster Award! (You can read the post here.)


In full disclosure, I was nominated once before, but heck, I’ll take it again. Thank you, TLN!

Per the award’s guidelines, I’m supposed to tell you five facts about myself, then nominate some other blogs. Here goes.

Five Facts:

1. The first poem I ever wrote was in third grade. We were supposed to choose a “kind of weather” we really liked and write an acrostic about it. Here’s mine, to the best of my memory:

Beaufort scales, let out your flags!

Really blowing, the breeze never lags.

Every blade of grass quivers and quakes

Every tree shivers and shakes.

Zesty breeze wakes the world.

Early morning, the breeze has purled; purled itself into a net of wind.

(Nevermind that this sounds more like a gale-force wind than breeze, but hey, I was eight. And did you catch the knitting reference?)

2. I am an epic sleeper. I can’t really sleep on planes or buses or in cars or through excessive noise, unfortunately, but I can close my eyes at 10:30 p.m. and not open them until 9 the next morning, given the right circumstance. My family calls me “Snoozin.”

3. I am a true ophidophobe. This means that I don’t just fear snakes, but I really really really don’t like them. According to Wikipedia, “A typical ophidiophobic would not only fear them when in live contact but also dreads to think about them or even see them on TV or in pictures.” I looked this up a while ago, when, watching a snake program on TV while eating dinner, I became physically ill and had to turn it off.

4. I adore this e.e. cummings poem, especially the last line: nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

5. When I first visited California, I felt like I had been there in a past life. When I actually moved here, I stopped feeling it altogether. About twice a year I feel it again, in places like Big Sur or Monterey.

Now, onto the nominees! I am giving the Liebster Award to three fantastic blogs.

1. I’d be remiss if I didn’t nominate all the fine ladies over at popcorntheblog (including myself). I was so fortunate to be asked to join this collection of writers and blog once a month on topics writerly. I’m not really giving this award to myself; I dedicate it to the other seven talented writers who make up the popcorn collective.

2. bussokuseki. bussokuseki may not even know I’m reading, but I am: he (?) writes beautiful haiku and blogs about “the buddha’s footprints in an everyday life.” As someone new to meditation, I seek out wisdom from places like this quiet, contemplative, beautiful blog.

3. Momaste. “The mom in me bows to the mom in you”–so clever! I just discovered this very honest blog about parenting. Since I’m no longer writing my Momming blog, I need to get a fix somewhere and Momaste gives it to me.

Congratulations, nominees, and thanks again to The Living Notebook.

Losing Ourselves

I thought it was really interesting that two blog posts today were about the immersive (I think I just made up a word) world of fiction. The Living Notebook writes about Absorption today, about fiction that “brings us further into [a] dream, overwhelming our senses until the dream seems real.”

And over on popcorn, Karen McHegg discusses books that “create a world different from the one [she] lives in.” You can read about those books here.

It made me think: which books have most absorbed me in recent years? My first thought was Emma Donoghue’s brilliant novel Room. I also felt immersed in the strange world of Karen Russel’s Swamplandia and the more-real-yet-also-quite-strange one of Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.

Which books have absorbed you lately? Head on over to popcorn and tell Karen McHegg.

And me? Today I’m immersed in three-year-old land. L. had a touch of pinkeye, and I knew I’d get the stink eye if I sent him to school.




Alright, sue me—I’m messing around with the idea of a “national blog writing month.” I have a good friend who is doing NaBloWriYe, a whole year of daily posts. She reports she’s feeling bored and uninspired with a few months to go. I love blogging, but the imperative to blog every day might do me in.

But is anyone doing NaNoWriMo? If so, share–unless you have realized, probably correctly, that any time you spend looking at blogs or Facebook would be better spent reaching your goal of 57,000 words, or whatever it is–and thus, are not reading. We excuse you: go write!

I for one have never participated in National Novel Writing Month, and am not this year, either. Some day I hope to have a novel in me, but I’m not rushing it.

It’s Monday, and I do have a plug, but I also wanted to share the nice news that popcorntheblog was Freshly Pressed last week. One thing I have come to love about blogging, and WordPress in particular: it feels like if you’re posting good stuff you stand the chance of getting picked up for FP and increasing your readership in just a few days. Popcorn being Freshly Pressed was a wonderful boost, since all the women in the collective care so much about the project. Thanks, WordPress.

In full disclosure, my plug this week is for a book written by my uncle, Jeffrey Blount. It’s a young adult novel called Hating Heidi Foster, a story of friendship, loyalty, and grief. Just out.

You can download Hating Heidi Foster as an e-book or snatch it up on Amazon, though it looks like you should buy soon: only five copies left! (I’m sure there will be more.) I read this book in the manuscript stage and am thrilled to see it’s reached print.

Great cover, too.

Plug: Great Reads!

On the suggestion of fellow popcorn blogger Susan Szafir, I am reading a fun memoir called The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife by Seattle writer Janna Cawrse Esarey. In the in-between times, I have been trolling the NationNewYorkerAtlanticMachine and getting stuck in some excellent pieces of journalism. Here are a few plugs, if you’re feeling like some socio-political commentary or just good old-fashioned voyeurism:

This fascinating article about Salman Rushdie from the September 17 issue of The New Yorker (yes, I am still behind, but at least I have made it to September).

This great interview with blogger Julia, by Ruth Whippman on popcorntheblog, all about privacy, blogging, alienating your in-laws, and writing about your kids (Julia’s blog is a fun read, too, if you’re inclined towards kidsy-things).

This article about teaching writing from the latest Atlantic Monthly. It may be inspiring a revolution in the way I teach.

This blog post, on The Nation, by Jessica Valenti, all about Momming and identity.

By the way: how did I find the time to read all this last week? I have no idea. Not this week: I must commence to sew a tiger costume for a certain someone’s Halloween.

Later this week (barring sewing disasters, earthquakes, illness, childcare snafus, or the like): my Fall Reading List.

Have you read anything great lately, readers?

Plug: Britt Bravo!

Here’s a plug, bloggers: Britt Bravo and her Juicy Blogging E-Course!

I took Britt’s course last spring and was really jostled, in a good way, into rethinking how I wanted to share information and the best ways to do so. Britt will give you weekly homework assignments like “write a 500-word post” (difficult!) and “add five blogs to your Google Reader” (what’s Google Reader?) and “find one image using Google Advanced Image Search” (uh…). Maybe you have these skills in hand already. I, on the other hand, did not, so I benefited a lot from Britt’s expertise.

There is also a wonderful sense of community built in the course, because you’re watching other bloggers change and grow, too.

Ms. Bravo herself

Britt’s Juicy Blogging E-Course: The Art & Play of Blogging runs from October 16 to November 6 this fall and costs $99. Kind of a steal.

You can learn more here.

And if you’re in the Bay Area, Britt has a couple of workshops this fall, too. Like this one and this one.

Finally, look here for thirteen Juicy blogs, spotlit in the Juicy Blogging eNews.

Tara Conklin Interviews Writer Oonah Joslin (on popcorntheblog!)

I am a part of a wonderful collective blog by a group of women who write in the West and Northwest. Popcorntheblog has musings on all things writerly, from summer reading lists to craft issues to advice. Today on popcorn, Tara Conklin interviews writer Oonah Joslin, whose work was featured recently in an anthology called Pangea: Stories from Around the Globe, about her writing habits, the need for a writing community, and what comes next.





In Praise of Peers

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my new and, I hope, improved blog! This one will feature little writing tidbits, updates, and links to some of my other blog ventures, including today’s post, “In Praise of Peers,” on popcorntheblog. Stay tuned for news about a Mama blog, to be released soon, where you can get your fix about the fun-loving lives of Susie and, to paraphrase Tina Fey, the “drunk midget who’s running around in my house.”

Thanks, as ever, for reading.